Friday, May 31, 2013

Book Review: Goddess

After accidentally unleashing the gods from their captivity on Olympus, Helen must find a way to re-imprison them without starting a devastating war. But the gods are angry, and their thirst for blood already has a body count.

To make matters worse, the Oracle reveals that a diabolical Tyrant is lurking among them, which drives a wedge between the once-solid group of friends. As the gods use the Scions against one another, Lucas’s life hangs in the balance. Still unsure whether she loves him or Orion, Helen is forced to make a terrifying decision, for war is coming to her shores.
In Josephine Angelini’s compelling conclusion to the masterfully woven Starcrossed trilogy, a goddess must rise above it all to change a destiny that’s been written in the stars. With worlds built just as fast as they crumble, love and war collide in an all-out battle that will leave no question unanswered and no heart untouched.  Quoted from Goodreads


**********************

In Goddess, we have yet another great end to a fun trilogy--more than great. It absolutely exceeded my expectations.  Here's the thing. I liked Starcrossed, but I had some big hangups with it. Too often, at least in my opinion, the first book in the series is the best, and then the second and third sort of trail after on borrowed sparks.  Absolutely not the case with this series.  Each book has gotten better and better.  The first was good, but this last one is great.  I'm telling you, 2010 was a great year for series, and it's kind of sad that so many are ending.

What I liked best? The tragedy.  Don't get me wrong, the ending is happy, almost too perfect really, but there's also tragedy.  There's sacrifice, and some great characters die or give up the things they love. Things don't all automatically work out, and we even had a few broken hearts in the mix. Really, it's the tragedy that grounds this story so solidly in the greek mythology Josephine Angelini is drawing on.

Plus, everyone steps up. Helen comes into her own and embraces her abilities and purpose; Lucas, Orion, Hector, Daphne, etc. all have their moment in the sun (or shadow, depending on how you look at it). Daphne's lies are all explained, and everything that was hinted at in the second book is played out beautifully. I really enjoyed the way each of the characters plays a modern counterpart to their more famous/ancient doppelgangers. She also does a great job of bringing the greek gods to life.  Sure, the story focuses on Helen, but I loved (or hated, depending) so many of other characters as well, I couldn't really pick a favorite.

This story, more than any of the others, pulls from the Iliad   We get the parallels, the replay, etc. The mythology/world-building of the story really comes together, so you can actually see history playing out the way the author describes.  Plus, we get a lot more action.  I'm sorry to say, but I wasn't a huge fan of the romance in these books. I like Lucas and Orion, don't get me wrong, but the whole" starcrossed lovers" thing came across as artificial to me.  It was more like, lets manufacture a reason for Helen and Lucas not to be together, that came across as weak and forced.  This book avoids most of that.  It's much more about the action, the war, trying to avoid the repeated tragedies of the Trojan War that the fates keep replaying, and it makes for a much, much better book.

Okay, so now for the things that bugged me.  First, the whole Matt/Achilles thing.  Maybe it was the plan from the beginning, but I really didn't like that aspect.  His suddenly getting powers and becoming immersed in that world, didn't really fit with everything else and seemed kind of contrived to me.  I had a few other issues I won't go into, but that was the big one.

Still, This book was, by far, the best of the series.  It's one of those where I want to recommend people read this series just because the third book was so good. I've had a lot going on this week, but I found my self picking this up every free minute I had. It's absolutely 4 stars for me, and it assured that I'll be picking up whatever Josephine Angelini writes next.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Book Review: The Rithmitist

More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Chosen by the Master in a mysterious inception ceremony, Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings — merciless creatures that leave mangled corpses in their wake. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.

As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students study the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing — kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery — one that will change Rithmatics — and their world — forever.
Bestselling author Brandon Sanderson brings his unique brand of epic storytelling to the teen audience with an engrossing tale of danger and suspense—the first of a series. With his trademark skills in world-building, Sanderson has created a magic system that is so inventive and detailed that that readers who appreciate games of strategy and tactics just may want to bring Rithmatics to life in our world.  Quoted from Goodreads

********************

I love this book. I mean, I knew it would be good.  Brandon Sanderson is that kind of author, the kind you trust no matter how different or crazy his world seems to be---he's kind of like Pixar in that way---and this book is no exception.

First there's  the magic system.  Who thought chalk drawings and cave paintings could be scary?  If someone said chalk figures would be horrible and a magic system that basically only fought those little chalk monsters would be fascinating I probably would have laughed, but Bandon Sanderson totally pulled it off. Seriously, this is such a unique idea.  So while there may be some elements that remind the reader of Harry Potter (school of magic; plucky girl side-kick; nefarious-seeming professor who everyone says is good, albeit annoying; etc.) the magic system is so different, it comes across as totally and completely different and unique.

Then there's the world itself.  It's half re-imagined American history, half steampunk.  Everything is wound from their trains to their clocks and lanterns. Plus the US is a conglomeration of 60 islands, similar but different from the states.

As for the characters, I really liked them.  Joel is basically this world's equivalent of a Muggle who wants to be a rithmatist, and his enthusiasm for the subject is infectious.  The magic system is half geometry, half art (which could have been boring but totally isn't), and he, as much as anything, makes the magic system fascinating and cool.  

Then there's Melody and Prof. Fitch.  Both are excellent side characters. They absolutely have their problems and personality quirks, but they both get their well-deserved moments of heroism. They also help compliment Joel in different ways, shaping the person you know he could be.

The book actually starts off a little bit slow, but by the end you can't put it down.  Everything comes together, the mystery builds and builds to a perfect climax, and then an amazing ending.  Almost everything sort of wraps up yet leaves you dying for the next book. The villains in this book are excellent. They're fascinating, and absolutely everything you did and didn't see coming (don't read too much into that statement.  I just really loved the bad guy in this book and how everything played out).  

All in all, if you're looking for a great book, this is it.  It's a great introduction to Brandon Sanderson's other works, and while it's solidly in the YA/middle grade world, it's the sort of book anyone could enjoy. It's an excellent 4.5 stars for me, with a good chance of being bumped higher in the future.  So to sum this all up, you need to read this book.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Book Review: Transparent

Plenty of teenagers feel invisible. Fiona McClean actually is.

An invisible girl is a priceless weapon. Fiona’s own father has been forcing her to do his dirty work for years—everything from spying on people to stealing cars to breaking into bank vaults.

After sixteen years, Fiona’s had enough. She and her mother flee to a small town, and for the first time in her life, Fiona feels like a normal life is within reach. But Fiona’s father isn’t giving up that easily.
Of course, he should know better than anyone: never underestimate an invisible girl. Quoted from Goodreads

*********************

Finally, a fun, paranormal standalone!  Don't get me wrong.  I like series.  I adore series.  I just also find it refreshing to read a book that I don't have to wait two more years to finish the story.

This really is a fun book, but you have to have the right expectations.  The beginning starts off with a bang.  We get to see the sort of things Fiona's dad forces her to do and why, exactly, she had to run away.  It kind of slows down after that. It's much more about her learning to accept who she is as an invisible person, and of course the inevitable romance, than it is about her serving as a mobster assassin or thief. It takes place mostly in a small town, there's a lot of high school involved, and while her father is a constant threat, he doesn't make an appearance until the climax of the story. 

Knowing that, this really is a fun read.  I loved watching Fiona grow up. Being away from her addictive, mobster father lets her finally figure out who she really is.  I also enjoyed exploring what it would be like to live your life as an invisible person.  While I did wonder why she couldn't ever dye her hair or put on heavy make-up for a quick glimpse of what she really looks like, it's still a fun concept to explore: growing up without ever seeing your own face.

I also adored the love interest.  I won't give away what's so great about it, but it's nice that it avoids a lot of the stereotypical pitfalls of YA romance.  

I really enjoy how real so many of the characters in this book are.  Sometimes it's almost annoying, but it gives the story a feeling of reality despite all the super powers the characters possess. Fiona gets to make some great friends, and even her family (dysfunctional as they  may be) grow and their story arcs play out really well.  I especially love her brother Miles.  He's always there for her, and the more you get to know him, the more interesting (and mysterious) he becomes.

All in all, this is a really fun, light book. Personally, I thought it was a lovely 4 stars.  If you're looking for a paranormal stand-alone, this is it.  Seriously, gun new book; fun new author.  You should pick it up.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Bargain Books!

There are tons of bargain e-books out there right now. Seriously, it's a great time to buy books. A lot of these are series, which, I admit, are intended to suck you in, but still, they're a good deal. Anyway, enjoy the list.


$2.99 - Let the Sky Fall - Shannon Messenger

$2.99 - Hereafter - Tara Hudson

$2.99 - Starcrossed - Josephine Angelini

$2.99 - Darkness Before Dawn - J.A. London

$2.99 - Carrier of the Mark - Leigh Fallon

$2.99 - Shadowcry - Jenna Burtenshaw

$1.99 - Wings - Aprilynne Pike

$1.99 - Varient - Robison Wells

$2.99 - Insignia - S.J. Kincaid

$2.99 - So Close to You - Rachel Carter

$2.99 - The Scorpio Races - Maggie Stiefvater

$0.99 - Pandemonium - Lauren Oliver

$2.99 - The Unwanteds - Lisa McMann

$2.99 - Click to Subscribe - L.M. Augustine

$1.99 - Fairest - Gail Carson Levine

Well, there you go.  A lot of these can also be found at Barnes and Noble, but I only linked them to Amazon.  Sorry. I ran out of time.  Still, check them out.  There are some great books here.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Trailer Tuesday: The 100

So, there's good and bad news.  The bad is that Fox decided not to pick up Delirium.  Same with the CW and The Selection.  Still, there's at least one Young Adult novel that has been given the green light.  The 100, which hasn't even technically come out yet, will be coming to the CW this fall.  If you're interested, click here for the CW's The 100 clip.

It doesn't show much, but I still have high hopes.  If you're interested, here's the summary of the book.
 It comes out 3 Sept. 2013---just in time for the fall release.

In the future, humans live in citylike spaceships orbiting far above Earth's toxic atmosphere. No one knows when, or even if, the long-abandoned planet will be habitable again. But faced with dwindling resources and a growing populace, government leaders know they must reclaim their homeland...before it's too late.

Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents are being sent on a high-stakes mission to recolonize Earth. After a brutal crash landing, the teens arrive on a savagely beautiful planet they've only seen from space. Confronting the dangers of this rugged new world, they struggle to form a tentative community. But they're haunted by their past and uncertain about the future. To survive, they must learn to trust-and even love-again. Quoted from Goodreads

Monday, May 20, 2013

Book Review: Towering

"At first, I merely saw his face, his hands on the window ledge. Then, his whole body as he swung himself through the window. Only I could not see what he swung on.

Until, one day, I told my dream self to look down. And it was then that I saw. He had climbed on a rope. I knew without asking that the rope had been one of my own tying."


Rachel is trapped in a tower, held hostage by a woman she’s always called Mama. Her golden hair is growing rapidly, and to pass the time, she watches the snow fall and sings songs from her childhood, hoping someone, anyone, will hear her. 

Wyatt needs time to reflect or, better yet, forget about what happened to his best friend, Tyler. That’s why he’s been shipped off to the Adirondacks in the dead of winter to live with the oldest lady in town. Either that, or no one he knows ever wants to see him again.
Dani disappeared seventeen years ago without a trace, but she left behind a journal that’s never been read, not even by her overbearing mother . . . until now.  Quoted from Goodreads

********************

To be frank, I didn't like it as well as Tangled. I mean, isn't that basically want everyone wants to know?  I realize Disney probably shouldn't set the bar for fairy tale adaptions, but it kind of does.  That doesn't mean there isn't room for a thousand other retellings.  I love seeing different takes on the classic stories.  But when you pick the same story as Disney, you have to know comparisons are inevitable, and while Towering was good, Tangled was better.

That doesn't mean you should dismiss the book, however. On the bright side, this absolutely isn't a modern retelling of Tangled.  The two stories are very, very different.  Different setting, villain, romance, etc.  so while I knew the basics (girl, tower, hair) I didn't actually know where this story would take me.

Still, it's a fun story.  Remember, it's a fairy tale, so you have to suspend your disbelief.  There's mystal insta-love, a mysterious drug that gives some people strength and long life, while enslaving others with no side benefits.  Most of all, there is a very specific destiny. Rachel's hair grows in response to this destiny.  When Wyatt comes, it grows long to give him a way into the tower and a way for Rachel to escape. When other things happen---aka, the mysterious bad person threatens them---it grows in warning and to help her. Even Dani's disappearance is connected to this grand destiny.

Like I said before, it's a fun story.  While Rachel's part is rather slow, I loved her POV. I enjoyed watching her get a cell phone for the first time or Wyatt giving her a letter that once belonged to her mother.  I also really enjoyed the way she spoke.  Her mother only gives her really old books, and her language reflected that, which I thought was fun. Wyatt is also a good character. He's suffering from something that happened to his friends (we're not told what, for a while), and he's trying to figure out what, if anything, matters anymore. Plus, there's a great air of mystery across the whole book, while these two, rather messed up people, try and figure out what happened to Rachel in the past, and what destiny has planned for their future.

Really, I only had a few problems with this.  First, the beginning is a bit slow.  While there is a great mystery, it took a long time for us to figure out what Rachel's role in the whole thing is.  Honestly, that's not really a bad thing, but I would have liked a tiny bit more direction before we got to the climax.  Second, and more much importantly, I was left with way to many unanswered questions.  I won't write them out in detail for fear of spoilers (though I really am tempted), but most of the mythology of the plot is left unanswered.  We're given this entire mystical set up, but we don't know any of the important details.  Several of the characters (including, in part, Rachel) I'm not even sure are human, but we don't get any type of answer as to what else they may be.  It's a great story, but it left way too many questions about what happened in the ending unanswered.

Still, if you're looking for a fun re-telling of Rapunzel, you need to check out Towering.  It's a very different, well-written take on the story, and you have to be impressed with Alex Flinn for even attempting a modern version because it's got to be one of the most difficult to convert. It's an interesting 3.5 stars for me (1/2 a star extra for being a fairy tale re-told).  So if you're looking for another fun fairy tale adaption, you should pick up Towering.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Book Review: School Spirits

Fifteen-year-old Izzy Brannick was trained to fight monsters. For centuries, her family has hunted magical creatures. But when Izzy’s older sister vanishes without a trace while on a job, Izzy's mom decides they need to take a break.

Izzy and her mom move to a new town, but they soon discover it’s not as normal as it appears. A series of hauntings has been plaguing the local high school, and Izzy is determined to prove her worth and investigate. But assuming the guise of an average teenager is easier said than done. For a tough girl who's always been on her own, it’s strange to suddenly make friends and maybe even have a crush.

Can Izzy trust her new friends to help find the secret behind the hauntings before more people get hurt? 

Rachel Hawkins' delightful spin-off brings the same wit and charm as theNew York Times
 best-selling Hex Hall series. Get ready for more magic, mystery and romance!   Quoted from Goodreads

********************

I loved the Hex Hall series. I love Sophie and her snarky comments, Archer and his witty comebacks, so I wasn't sure how School Spirits would work out for me. Did I love Hex Hall because of those characters, and would new characters work for me in the same world?  No worries. Izzy is a delightful new character, and while she isn't Sophie by any means, she is her own unique self and an easy character to root for.   Plus, if you're in the mood for snarky or at least slightly off-beat comments, there's always Dex (and Torin to a lesser extent).

This book, while functioning in the same world as Hex Hall, comes off with a different feel.  It's one of those great spin-off series (like Richelle Mead's Bloodlines series)  that uses the same world, yet has a completely different main character and challenge so it doesn't feel like it's rehashing the same old problem we've seen before. 

Okay, so Izzy is Sophie's cousin, the knife-wielding girl who was always talking to Torin (the 400+ year old warlock trapped in a mirror) and hunting down Prodegium (aka paranormals) in Spell Bound.  Things have changed just a bit since they're now related to Sophie, the girl headed to be their illustrious leader, so instead of hunting paranormals point blank, they serve more as a police force, hunting only those break the rules.

First, I loved seeing Izzy go to a regular school.  I love that she chooses high school soap operas to help her blend in and that she as the resident school bully terrified of her in the first ten minutes of class (in a  dodgeball incident gone wrong).  I also liked how her friends were utterly and completely different from her, but they still became good, close friends.

Then there's Torin and Dex---the two men in Izzy's life.  Torin, well, I'm so excited to see where that is headed.  I felt like this first book was just a set up for bigger things to come, and a big portion of those things, I feel, will involve Torin--and I absolutely love that.  He is a great character.  He's half on Izzy's side, but he so ambiguous, that you never know if he's really going to help her or just trying to manipulate her.  I can't wait to see where he goes.  Then there's Dex. He's more your standard romantic lead, but he's so quirky (with his own mystery) that you can't help but love him.  And like I said before, he's so different from Izzy, he's good for her.  My only complaint with him is how rushed his ending was.  I'm glad about what happened, but I'm still interested to see how things are going to play out with this new development.

All told, this is a wonderful beginning to a spin-off series.  It does start out a little bit basic.  It's not really much more than a simple haunting.  At the same time, there's enough intrigue between Torin and the disappearance of Finley, Izzy's sister,  that I can't wait to see where this series is heading.  If you're a fan of Hex Hall, or ghost stories in general, or are simply looking for a great writer with a bouncy voice and some great one-liners, you need to pick this up.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Book Review: The Rules

1. Never trust anyone.

2. Remember they are always searching.

3. Don’t get involved.

4. Keep your head down.

5. Don’t fall in love.

Five simple rules. Ariane Tucker has followed them since the night she escaped from the genetics lab where she was created, the result of combining human and extraterrestrial DNA. Ariane’s survival—and that of her adoptive father—depends on her ability to blend in among the full-blooded humans in a small Wisconsin town, to hide in plain sight at her high school from those who seek to recover their lost (and expensive) “project.”
But when a cruel prank at school goes awry, it puts her in the path of Zane Bradshaw, the police chief’s son and someone who sees too much. Someone who really sees her. After years of trying to be invisible, Ariane finds the attention frightening—and utterly intoxicating. Suddenly, nothing is simple anymore, especially not the rules . . . Quoted from Goodreads

********************

I enjoyed this so much more than I expected! Don't get me wrong, I liked Stacey Kade's Ghost and the Goth series.  They were light, cute, and had fun characters. Still, this could have gone wrong.  Some authors really only have one great series in them, and then they fizzle and die.  This one absolutely lives up to it's predecessors.

I read a lot of mixed reviews on this, which ended up helping a lot, so I'm going to kind of give you a heads up so you won't go into this blind. This isn't one of those on-the-run adventures that have become so popular this year.  Most of this takes place in high school, which I was fine with.  It's more about her hiding in plain sight, learning to standing up to the class bully, and falling in love.  Besides the constant threat of being discovered, all real involvement with GHX (the company who created her) doesn't really get involved in the plot until the last quarter of the book.

Now you  know what to expect, this really is a fun book.  I like Ariana.  She's cute, albeit very into not being noticed.  Plus, she's half alien.  And not all the new, modern ideas we have about aliens, but the stereotypical alien (black eyes, grey skin, move things with their minds, hear our thoughts sort of thing) from the '50s, which was sort of refreshing.  She gave the old stereotype just enough of a twist (human combined with alien DNA) that it didn't need to be new or groundbreaking.  

The book is told in alternating chapters between Ariana and Zane's POV.  Zane is an interesting lead.  I liked seeing Ariana from a completely human POV.  You get to observe her quirks without her internal analysis as to whether what she is doning will blend into the background and come across as completely human.  He also has his own issues to deal with, but on a completely human level, that adds another layer of anxiety to the story.  Plus, he looks like Clark Kent---I mean, how can a girl resist?

All in all, I ended up really enjoying this book, probably a 4 star masterpiece.  Yes, if you're looking for one long chase, explore the Roswell conspiracy, car chases, and men in black, this is not the book for you.  If you'd like a coming of age, hidden in plain sight, high school drama, this is right up your alley.  

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Trailer Tuesday: Emerald Green

This is one of the books I'm most excited for this year. I absolutely loved Ruby Red and Sapphire Blue, and can't wait for this third book to come out.  Honestly, the whole series is one you should read at once, though, because each book bleeds into the next without any real sort of climax or anything that says, yes, I think this book should end here.

Anyway, check out the lovely trailer for this series/book below.  Emerald Green doesn't come out until October, but if you want to be excited with me, you could read the first two books now, despite what I said earlier.


To get you even more excited, here's a quick summary of the book.

Gwen has a destiny to fulfill, but no one will tell her what it is.

She’s only recently learned that she is the Ruby, the final member of the time-traveling Circle of Twelve, and since then nothing has been going right. She suspects the founder of the Circle, Count Saint-German, is up to something nefarious, but nobody will believe her. And she’s just learned that her charming time-traveling partner, Gideon, has probably been using her all along.
This stunning conclusion picks up where Sapphire Blue left off, reaching new heights of intrigue and romance as Gwen finally uncovers the secrets of the time-traveling society and learns her fate.      Quoted from Goodreads

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Book Review: The Summer I Became a Nerd

On the outside, seventeen-year-old Madelyne Summers looks like your typical blond cheerleader—perky, popular, and dating the star quarterback. But inside, Maddie spends more time agonizing over what will happen in the next issue of her favorite comic book than planning pep rallies with her squad. That she’s a nerd hiding in a popular girl's body isn’t just unknown, it's anti-known. And she needs to keep it that way.

Summer is the only time Maddie lets her real self out to play, but when she slips up and the adorkable guy behind the local comic shop’s counter uncovers her secret, she’s busted. Before she can shake a pom-pom, Maddie’s whisked into Logan’s world of comic conventions, live-action role-playing, and first-person-shooter video games. And she loves it. But the more she denies who she really is, the deeper her lies become…and the more she risks losing Logan forever.  Quoted from Goodreads


*******************

This is such a cute book.  It's all about being true to yourself despite what other people think. It's Maddie, who by high school standars has got it made.  Popular cheerleader dating the football quarterback---sound a bit cliche?  It's supposed to.  After one horrible event in middle-school, Maddie decided to hide everything that might even hint at her secret nerd tendencies. At least until Logan messes everything up.

Really, I enjoyed Maddie's struggle.  She has to choose (at least in her eyes) between falling from the top of  the high school pyramid and the boy who is perfect for the person she really is. Plus Logan is just adorable.  He and Maddie are so absolutely cute together and actually have good chemistry   He's also really understanding about dealing with all her issues, so while there is a tiny bit of angst, it's mostly just fun watching them fall in love. 

I also really liked Logan and Maddie's best friends Dan and Terra.  Dan is hilarious. While Logan made being a nerd attractive, Dan was just funny. He's grumpy but absolutely loyal.  Then there's Terra. She's everything Maddie tries to be, but she's also a really good friend.  Despite all the secrets and lies Maddie's told over their relationship, she's still an understanding, caring friend.

As for all the nerd stuff, I thought it was kind of fun. With The Big Bang Theory and the amazing success of comic book to movie adaptions (Iron Man 3, anyone? I absolutely loved it) and Lord of the Rings films, nerd things are getting a lot more focus now. Granted, besides a few Archie Comics, which I don't even think counts in the comic book world, I've never read a comic, and LARPing isn't on my to do list, but I still found it a nice angle for the story. It makes the story stand out from so many other contemporary romance/coming of age books I've read recently.

So, if you're looking for a fun, light read, or just want a chance to delight your inner (or maybe not so inner) nerd, you should check out this book.  It's a delightful 3.5 stars for me and the perfect summer read.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Book Review: Life After Theft

Moving to a new high school sucks. Especially a rich-kid private school. With uniforms. But nothing is worse than finding out the first girl you meet is dead. And a klepto. 

No one can see or hear Kimberlee except Jeff, so--in hopes of bringing an end to the snarkiest haunting in history--he agrees to help her complete her "unfinished business." But when the enmity between Kimberlee and Jeff's new crush, Sera, manages to continue posthumously, Jeff wonders if he's made the right choice.

Clash meets sass in this uproarious modern-day retelling of Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel. Quoted from Goodreads


********************

When I read that last line I was a mixture of sold and skeptical. I love The Scarlet Pimpernel---book, movie, you name it. At the same time, I wasn't quite sure how in the world the above plot of boy meets klepto ghost was supposed to translate to into Sir Percy Blakney and his band of colorfully dressed cohorts. To be honest, it is a bit of a stretch, but Aprilynne Pike actually managed to pull it off rather well.  There's no Guillotine  but we have a delightfully vindictive principle whose perfectly set against our secret highschool hero.

Now here's the other thing you need to know.  The main character is a boy---Jeff, to be exact---which fits in with the whole Scarlet Pimpernel thing, but totally threw me off because of the cover (and the fact that the Scarlet Pimpernel is told from Marguerite's POV).  The confusion didn't last long---I mean, I 'd really pity any girl named Jeff---but it wasn't what I expected when I first started reading. 

As for Jeff, he's a great main character.  He's the new kid thrown into a crazy situation, who acts (justifiably so) like a crazy person on his first day of school when he sees the ghost of a dead girl no one else can see.  Fortunately, no one really judges (or seems to remember) him talking like a crazy person to "himself" in the hallway that first day. To keep Kimberlee from making his life miserable, he agrees to return the thousands of things she stole before she died. That's where our Scarlet Pimpernel plot line comes in.  The principal is still out to catch the thief that terrorized the school, so when stuff starts reappearing, he's bound and determined to catch the culprit.

It actually worked really well.  To be honest, while I liked Jeff, Kimberlee is the most interesting character in the book.  She's spoiled and annoying, but she's the one who changes and grows by giving all the stuff back.  She's the one, despite how completely shallow she is, that brings a nice depth to the book. 

Jeff and Sera's relationship  for me, is just sort of there. It follows the Scarlet Pimpernel plot line, with one notable and kind of disappointing exception. In the Scarlet Pimpernel, it's Percy who acts differently to hide what he is doing.  Jeff never does that.  So while Sera does have some secrets from her past, Jeff is just himself with one or two secret extracurricular activities. 

All in all, this is a fun book.  I love who Jeff got to help him out in returning the stolen stuff (I won't say who and spoil it for you), and I loved the whole Scarlet Pimpernel thing. It was a fun, light ( but with more depth than I first thought) retelling.  For me it's a lovely 3.5 stars. If you're looking for a fun, high school adventure, that is also a stand-alone (hooray!) you should absolutely check this out.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Book Review: The 5th Wave

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. 

After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. 

And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. 

After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up. Quoted from Goodreads


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There's so much hype for this book, it's almost crazy.  It's been called the next Hunger Games or Ender's Game (yeah, at least it avoided the word game it it's title, or it would come off as too cliche).  I'll be honest, though, that's the real reason I picked it up. After the Ender's Game and Catching Fire previews, plus the trailers for the book itself, I was in the mood for a great Scifi story, and The 5th Wave did not disappoint.

One of the biggest selling points of the story, one that gives it an added urgency, is Cassie has to get to her little brother.  It's like talking about Hunger Games without including Rue.  Cassie can't just hide or survive.  She has to keep her promise to her brother.  In the beginning she doesn't know where he is or what's been done with him, but he's the only person she has left, and going after him is worth risking everything for.

 Plus, action, action action.  But also relationships in case you're scared, but mostly action.  I mean, when the enemy looks just like your friends, who can you trust? Most of the population has been wiped out.  Basically everyone you've ever known is gone, but how can you believe anyone enough to be their friend, when at any moment they could turn on you?  The first three Waves were bad enough, ripping apart the world and killing almost all of it's inhabitants. The 4th (and titular  5th) are a different level of mean. 

 It starts off with Cassie.  Alone.  Who, by luck, bravery, and an unwillingness not to give up, has survived the first 4 waves. The first part has a lot of flashbacks leading up to where she is now.  It explores each of the waves, how they affected Cassie and her family, and what turned her into the person she has become.  Honestly, Cassie is one of those heroins you can't help but root for.  She's not perfect, but in some ways, she's perfect for the world that has fallen apart around her. 

But it's not just Cassie's POV we get.  We also get a good portion from Ben Parish, her little brother Sammie, and even the mysterious Silencer. I liked the back and forth POV.  It let us see more of the world, and leveled up the conflict, exposing us to so much more than one person alone could have experienced.

As for twist, wel, most of them you can see coming, but honestly that didn't really bother me.  maybe it's because there's still so much tension without it, or maybe it's just the way it was handled, but (like in Cinder) I was okay sort of guessing what was really going on.  Sometimes it almost makes the suspense worse. For example, you know someone is bad, but because the character doesn't yet, you're afraid of what they will do while buying into the villain's twisted machinations.  Sometimes that's even worse.

All in all, this is a edge-of-your-seat, keep-you-up-past-midnight sort of read.  It's a strong 4.5 stars for me, with a good chance it will migrate up to 5 with time.  Now it is the first in a trilogy, so there are two more installments, and while it wraps up a lot of stuff, there are a lot of cliffhangers left to keep you chomping on the bit waiting for the next book.  So if you're stuck waiting for some amazing November movie releases, you need to pick this up. Just a quick warning, there' some language and a couple of pretty violent moments, so not really for the younger young adult readers.  Still, for everyone else, it's fast-paced, exciting, and a great take on alien invasions. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Theater Thursday: Ender's Game II

I am so, so, so, so, so excited for this movie. It was one of my absolute favorite books in Jr. High, and I've probably read it about ten times (don't judge), plus all the spin-off books (though I've only read most of those once). Hollywoods been teasing that they're going to make this into a movie for over a decade, so I'm especially happy that it's actually happening.  Anyway, check out the new trailer and tell me what you think.  Are you half as excited as I am?  Plus, I think the cast looks just about perfect.  Really, I can't wait.

  

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Book Review: If I Should Die

I will not lose another person I love. I will not let history repeat itself.

Vincent waited lifetimes to find me, but in an instant our future together was shattered. He was betrayed by someone we both called a friend, and I lost him. Now our enemy is determined to rule over France’s immortals, and willing to wage a war to get what they want.

It shouldn’t be possible, none of it should be, but this is my reality. I know Vincent is somewhere out there, I know he’s not completely gone, and I will do anything to save him.
After what we’ve already fought to achieve, a life without Vincent is unimaginable. He once swore to avoid dying—to go against his nature and forsake sacrificing himself for others—so that we could be together. How can I not risk everything to bring my love back to me?    Quoted from Goodreads

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Absolutely perfect ending.  I'll admit, I was a little bit afraid for this book. Don't get me wrong, I love the first one, but the second suffered a bit from sophomore slump syndrome. Still, I was hoping this third book would live up to the first.  It completely surpassed it.  Maybe because it was a bit more up my alley.  This book was more action, more history, less insta-love and broken hearts. Don't get me wrong, it still had that, but it was much more an action based book and less your standard paranormal love story. 

First, with two exceptions, I felt like everyone in this book really stepped up. They were all great people to begin with, but each was given a chance to shine. We've had two books to get to know and love these characters, and now, in this third one, each one has grown into someone special, had to confront their fears, something that makes you love them more. Kate, especially, grew up and came into her own.  She was always good, and they still sometimes shove her into her "oh, you're human" corner, but she never gives up.  She's always fighting for Vincent and the rest of the people she loves. 

Secondly, we get an ending that is, in some ways, a beginning.  It resolves off the major plot points, and we get a world full of hope.  There are just enough changes that the outlook is hopeful, without changing the world and the mythology so much you're left not knowing what's going to happen to them all.  Of course there are a few sad points. Relationships change. People die, and not in the I'm coming back in three days kind of way, but it makes everything more realistic when there are sacrifices involved.  

Plus, I really loved what happened to Jules.   Okay, this paragraph may be a little spoilery, so don't read if you don't want a few hints about what will happen.  This book was never a love triangle.  In fact, one of the things I liked least about Die for Her, the short novella from Jules POV is that he was so in love with Kate. Still, when there are two boys in love with the same girl, you pretty much know one of them is going to be unhappy for a time.  What most authors do is introduce a second love interest (usually halfway through the last book) as a sort of consolation prize, so everyone can get their happy ending (Breaking Dawn, anyone?).  This does not happen here, and I'm grateful.  That always comes across as a little contrived to me.  I still enjoy Jules as a character, but I'm glad everything isn't tied up with a nice, neet, overly artificial bow.  Plus, maybe Amy Plum will do a spin-off series like Richelle Mead.  I haven't heard anything, but I could easily see that happening.

If you're looking for another great sereis that is now complete, you should check this out.  I mean, we get Paris as our setting and a unique mythology that really is different from most everything out there.  This is a lovely 4.5 stars for me (a solid one star more than either of the two previous books).  Honestly, I couldn't put it down.  Yes, I was excited for it to come out, but it was so much better than I expected, it really surprised me, ensuring I'll absolutely check out what Amy Plum is writing next.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Trailer Tuesday: The 5th Wave

I'm really excited for this week's Trailer Tuesday.  If you looked over my list for Anticipating May, you may have noticed that The 5th Wave comes out today.  I haven't read it.  At first, I wasn't sure I was interested, but it's been getting some good buzz, so I thought I'd look into it.  Then I saw these previews.  Usually, book previews get me a little excited, but then never do the book justice.  Honestly, though, I love this series of previews detailing each of the preceding 4 waves.  What can I say, they totally drew me in, so check them out. The book is starting to look absolutely amazing.

1st Wave

2nd Wave

3rd Wave

4th Wave

Doesn't that just look awesome.  This series has to be some of the greatest book previews ever.  Now aren't you excited!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Book Review: Shadow Falls Series

 One night Kylie Galen finds herself at the wrong party, with the wrong people, and it changes her life forever. Her mother ships her off to Shadow Falls—a camp for troubled teens, and within hours of arriving, it becomes painfully clear that her fellow campers aren’t just “troubled.” Here at Shadow Falls, vampires, werewolves, shapshifters, witches and fairies train side by side—learning to harness their powers, control their magic and live in the normal world.

Kylie’s never felt normal, but surely she doesn’t belong here with a bunch of paranormal freaks either. Or does she? They insist Kylie is one of them, and that she was brought here for a reason. As if life wasn’t complicated enough, enter Derek and Lucas. Derek’s a half-fae who’s determined to be her boyfriend, and Lucas is a smokin’ hot werewolf with whom Kylie shares a secret past. Both Derek and Lucas couldn’t be more different, but they both have a powerful hold on her heart. 
Even though Kylie feels deeply uncertain about everything, one thing is becoming painfully clear—Shadow Falls is exactly where she belongs . . . Quoted from Goodreads

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This is a hard series to review.  It started during the vampire craze, when every book had to have it's obligatory love triangle, and that shows.  It's not really anything new , but for what it is, it's a fun read.  I mean, I read all five books, which is saying something.

First for the things I liked.  I love Kylie's girl friends, as in friends who are girls.  Whether it's the best friend she left behind or the two new ones she found at camp, I loved their relationships. They were always there for her, while having enough of their own drama to keep everything interesting.  I mean, Della got her own novella (and maybe a spinoff series?).  Plus, they act like teenage girls.  They have silly moments, fight, and get jealous, but then are back to being friends again.

I liked Holley and Burnett. They're good leaders, have their own problems, yet have time for Kylie.  They don't sit back and expect her to defeat the evil whatever.  They also have their own cute relationship.

What I had a problem with?  Well, Lucas and Derek. Not that they both don't have their shining moments, but the drama dragged out way too long.  I mean, Kylie was still agonizing over them in the fifth book.  I was so tired of that particular drama by then, I sort of had to force myself to slog through the parts where she agonized over her torn feelings. 

Second, not enough action.  I get that these books all have some kind  of mystery.  Kylie is warned by a ghost or has to complete that ghost's unfinished business, all of which is connected to her, but the ghosts aren't all that helpful, thus the mystery.  Oh, and there's the mystery of Kylie's supernatural species.  All in all that is good, but it was almost all buildup with very little climax.  The action chapters at the end were too short.  While the mystery built up and there were plenty of mild cliffhangers along the way, the ending wasn't ever as grand or scary as I wanted it to be.

Still, it's a fun series. It's probably a solid 3 stars for me through all three books.  Maybe it just tried to be a little bit too much of everything.  I mean we have vampires, werewolves, witches, ghosts, shape-shifters, fairies, and a super secret new paranormal species all rolled up into one. Still, it's a fun read, and the series is over, so you can enjoy all the books at once without having to deal with horrible cliff hangers that leave you begging for the next book.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Anticipating May

There are about a thousand books coming out this month, especially on the 7th.  Seriously, the ones below are just the ones I'm interested right now.  Of course, I will probably read two or three that didn't make this list, but there are so many great books coming out, May is shaping up to be an amazing month.  It's kind of the perfect way to kick off the summer. So go ahead, peruse below, we have a great month of reading ahead.


            7th:   If I Should Die – Amy Plumb
         Thorn Abbey –Nancy Ohlin
          Icons –Margaret Stohl
         The 5thWave – Rick Yancey
          Perfection –J.L. Spelbring
          Reboot – AmyTintera



         Towering – AlexFlinn





         Of Triton – AnnaBanks
          Impostor –Suzanne Winnacker
               The Girl with the Iron Touch - Kady Cross
       


So that's it. We have some amazing new series coming out, as well as continuing and closing some other greats. Plus, I'm in the mood for a good beach read or two. Anyway, if I missed something that absolutely needs to be on my list, let me know, and have a great month of reading.